Conservative COVID rebels proclaim ‘attacks on freedom’ while voting for authoritarian policies
There was something quite frightening about the Conservative Party’s rebellion last night against Boris Johnson’s new COVID regulations.
Shortly after Johnson made his case before the 1922 committee, 99 of his MPs decided to ignore him and vote in the name of freedom against emergency measures designed to protect the public and the NHS against the Omicron COVID variant. Other conservatives, such as former Prime Minister Theresa May, abstained.
The scale of the rebellion was shocking enough, but the force and recklessness displayed may signal a hitherto unidentified mutation in the party. This suggests that right-wing MPs are getting tired of Prime Minister Johnson simply because he is too moderate.
Preparations for the vote, in which the government sought to pass temporary laws involving the wearing of masks, compulsory vaccination of NHS staff and increased vaccination checks, featured several Tory MPs we are not used to to hear. These are often people who believe that their opinions and prejudices are obviously more telling than the scientific data. One of them, Marcus Fysh, the MP for Yeovil in Somerset, started very early with an interview on the BBC’s Today show last Thursday morning.
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Originally an investment manager, Fysh had no scientific or medical training (he studied literature). However, he casually pronounced on Omicron, saying that it might actually be a good thing. When the show’s host Martha Kearney pressed him with doubts and data, Fysh struggled and quickly reached for the self-inflating life jacket emblazoned with the words ‘British Freedoms’. His voice rising a little, he exclaimed, âI want us to talk more about the fact that we are a free country; that we are a democracy and that we believe in individual freedom.
Anyone who has paid the slightest attention to politics in recent years will have found these words hard to swallow. Indeed, one of the rare accomplishments of this supremely ineffective government is to successfully attack both with relentless precision.
After all, this government’s record is indisputable. Two years ago he suspended Parliament illegally. This was followed by a bill to introduce voter identification, which would restrict access to the ballot for many – despite the problem of voter fraud being almost non-existent in the UK.
Another proposal from this Brexit government, still flayed with fines against the Leave campaign, is to dismantle the powers of the Election Commission, which recently fined the Conservative Party Â£ 17,800 for failing to report a donation that paid for the renovation of Boris Johnson’s Downing. Street residence. The Prime Minister, incidentally, has so little respect for institutions that he seems to have misled the commission and Parliament as to who really paid for his wallpaper.
Caught between numerous self-created scandals and a raft of perpetually outraged backbenchers, Johnson is on the ropes. Last Thursday, it was on the vaccine passports that Fysh channeled the rage of his colleagues, calling vaccination checks, which are common all over the world, “a massive imposition of our freedoms, a massive attack on personal freedom – freedom of association”. He concluded his radio interview with a message to the Prime Minister. âWe can’t go this routeâ¦ don’t. “